My family and I just got home from an amazing week in Ocean Isle, NC. Charlie and I have had this big family vacation planned since April. Charlie, me, our 3 kids, Charlie's mom, my parents, my sisters, my grandma and my great Aunt Joan were all going to vacation together for a week. I was beyond excited about this. I haven't been to Ocean Isle since I was nearly 15! The day FINALLY came for us to pile into the van and make the 500 mile drive from our house to the condo we'd be staying at in NC. My mother-in-law came with us while my parents, sisters, grandma and great Aunt drove down separately in 2 other cars.
Charlie and I loaded up all the luggage and beach supplies Friday evening so all we'd have to do Saturday morning was get in the van and go. Saturday morning Charlie and I woke up and got everyone else up and ready and we were on the road at 5:45am. We made a stop for doughnuts, coffee and juice about 30 minutes into the drive and made our way down the road again. About 30 minutes after getting breakfast the AC in the van stopped working. Already an hour into our 9 hour drive and we've hit our first snafu. Fortunately we were in Annapolis and made a stop at Advanced Auto to get a Freon kit. The gauge on the can of Freon said what we had in the van was correct. Charlie could only figure the compressor was going bad. We decided to keep going. While all of this is going on I'm not feeling well and can't hear out of my right ear. I considered stopping at a CVS Minute Clinic on our way, but, decided against it for sake of time. After sitting in hours of traffic through Virginia (most of which was spent with no AC in the van) we finally made it into NC. We were half way there! Our GPS got us off track a little bit, but after all day driving we arrived at the Realtor's office to pick up our condo keys. Another 5 minutes of driving to the condo and we turned the key to our home for the week around 7pm. (Yes, that would be over 13 hours on the road, heavy traffic and no AC). I have to give a big shout out to my kids, though. Despite the heat, sweating, traffic and endless hours in the van during our drive they were amazing! I anticipated a day filled with fighting and crying and there was barely a peep out of anyone! Shortly after we arrived my parents arrived at their condo (a few condo buildings over from where we were staying). We got our luggage up to our condo and started settling in. My mother-in-law and I headed out to the local grocery store to pick up some food for the next day while Charlie kept an eye on the kids and got all the beds made.
Sunday morning started with Jessi and I heading to Myrtle Beach, SC (30 minutes from where were staying) to get checked out at a CVS Minute Clinic. I still couldn't hear out of my right ear and now had a steady stabbing pain in it. Jessi had been coughing since the day before. We checked in and were seen immediately. My diagnosis was sinus infection and ear infection. Jessi's diagnosis, a little surprisingly, was the beginnings of a double ear infection. We got our antibiotics and headed back to the condo. We took our first doses of medication and met up with Charlie, Betty and John at the pool (Tabytha had gone with my parents to Church). The rest of Sunday was spent at the pool and checking out the beach.
Monday was much of the same, except my dear friend and her family were also vacationing in NC the same week as us! She and her family meet up with us at our beach and our kids had a blast together! All of us splashing and playing in the ocean, laughing together and just having an all around great time. My friend and her family came up to our condo and had lunch with us. I intended to make soft tacos and was quickly replaced at the stove by my friend's husband who finished cooking the meat while I smeared bagels with cream cheese for some of the kids that didn't like soft taco's. Unfortunately after lunch my friend and her family had to head back to catch the ferry back to where they were staying, but, we had a great time together. Hubby, the kids, Betty and I went back down to the pool for a little while longer. Dinner was at my parent's condo where were greeted with a feast! Mom made salad, spaghetti, homemade meat sauce (with cracked eggs cooked in the sauce - my FAVORITE) and garlic bread and a German Chocolate cake for dessert. You'd think with 12 people there wouldn't be any leftovers, especially when many of us had seconds, but, there was a little sauce and spaghetti left after we were all sufficiently stuffed. After dinner we enjoyed more conversation and time with each other before we headed back to our condo to get the kids to bed. Around 11pm we asked my mother-in-law if she didn't mind Charlie and I taking a walk out on the beach to star gaze. (There was a meteor shower and I was hoping to catch a glimpse). She didn't mind staying behind with the kids, who were all fast asleep. Charlie and I walked to the beach to enjoy the sound of the crashing waves, the cool breeze and starry night. How fortunate for us that we ran into my sister, Bethany, who was coming out to the beach to also catch a glimpse of the meteor shower. She went back real quick to her condo (which was a little closer to the beach than ours was) to get a couple extra camping chairs for Charlie and me. The three of us sat on the beach staring up at the sky and chatting away. Bethany and Charlie saw the first couple streaks in the sky (I was busy wiping away ocean mist from my glasses). About 20 minutes went by before I finally saw one. We sat out on the beach together for about an hour watching the sky.
Tuesday Charlie, Betty and I had plans to meet up with my parents and sisters to go to Myrtle beach and enjoy a day at the "Family Kingdom Amusement Park". We got down there to find out the amusement park didn't open until 4pm and it was only 10:30am! Tabytha had driven down with my parents and youngest sister, Hannah and my other sister, Bethany, rode with us. My parents didn't want to wait around until the park opened up and decided to head back to the condo (with Hannah and Tabytha) to go out on the beach, play in the pool and go play miniature golf. We decided to stay (since we'd driven an hour to get there) and Bethany stayed with us. We passed a place that takes people on helicopter rides, so we went back there to check it out. My mother-in-law, Betty, did not want to go up in a helicopter and happily stayed on the ground while I got myself, Charlie, John, Jessi and Bethany signed up and paid for. We had to be split up because the helicopter could only hold 4 people and one was the pilot. Charlie and John went together and Jessi, Bethany and I went together. Our names were called and we were shuttled to the helipad. Charlie and John were first to go up. Next up was Jessi, Bethany and me! We were so excited. We got in our seats and up we went. Jessi got to sit next to the pilot. The pilot took us over the ocean and along the coastline. We had a lot of fun and saw some beautiful scenery. The ride was over much sooner than we wanted, but, we met up with the rest of our group and headed off to lunch. After lunch we actually went to a small used car dealer and bought a suburban (after the 13 hour trip with 6 people and a week's worth of luggage, beach supplies and linens with no AC you realize how cramped a minivan can actually be). The dealership couldn't afford to buy our van from us, so, we're stuck with that for the time being. The rest of our time would be traveled in air conditioning! By the time we were done with the paperwork for the suburban the Amusement Park was ready to open for the evening. We made it back and got the kids wristbands for unlimited rides and a book of tickets for us grownups to go on a few rides with the kids or by ourselves. Bethany and I went on the big roller coaster together :) We spent about 5 hours at the amusement park and I'm fairly certain John and Jessi rode EVERY ride they were tall enough to get on. It was a blast! Bethany treated Jessi to an ice cream and Betty treated John to popcorn at the end of the night. The last thing we did before we left was the Ferris Wheel. Charlie, Betty, John and Jessi rode back to the condo in the comfort of the new air conditioned suburban while I chose to drive the van and Bethany was kind enough to keep me company.
Wednesday we checked out the Planetarium and got to see a laser show in the morning. Then we headed to a little place I had been to as a kid called "Calabash". It's like an enclosed 'flea market' of sorts and it's nothing particularly special, just a place to find some neat trinkets, souvenirs, tee shirts, post cards and such. After Calabash we went back to the condo, played in the pool, had dinner and then went to the local North Carolina Museum. The local fire dept was there, too! Tabytha, John and Jessi got to use the hose and spray into the pond. Inside the museum were displays filled with shark jaws, whale bones, local animal displays and even a "Touch Tank" where people are encouraged to explore a man made pond with their hands. Inside the tank was a horseshoe crab, blow fish, hermit crabs, starfish and ocean vegetation. The kids had a lot of fun with the several "hands on" displays in the museum.
Thursday was pretty much spent at the pool or on the beach. We got a few rain showers, but, spent the day just being with each other and relaxing. I made dinner for the 6 of us, plus my parents, sisters, Grandma and great Aunt. I made cheese stuffed meatloaf, mashed potatoes and rice. My mother-in-law bought a cheesecake sampler for dessert for everyone to enjoy. After my parents, sisters, grandma and great aunt went back to their condo we kicked back and relaxed in the condo watching some TV before going to bed.
Friday was pretty much a wash out due to rain. The morning was dry enough to head out to the pool for a little while. Charlie took Tabytha to the pier to go fishing, I walked the beach and collected sea shells, Betty, John and Jessi hung out at the pool. By lunch time the rain had come and didn't show signs of letting up. We went back to the condo and I did some laundry and started packing up. The rain got us thinking that we'd just leave that night instead of waiting around, going to bed and waking up super early to get on the road. So, the beds were stripped and linens packed up along with our clothes in their suitcases. The van and suburban were loaded up and around 6:30pm we said our goodbyes to my parents, sisters, grandma and aunt Joan and headed down the road. Charlie drove the van with his mom keeping him company while I drove the suburban with the kids. This time the ride wasn't as long and there was no traffic to be found going through Virginia. The kids slept for a few hours during the drive and we arrived home around 3am. We didn't bother unloaded any of the luggage (except for the toiletry bag so we could all brush our teeth before heading to our beds). The kids were tucked in, my mother-in-law went off to bed (in the bottom bunk in Tabby's room) and Charlie and I chatted a little bit with our friend who stayed at our house during the week to take care of our dog, Bo. It was a little after 4am before Charlie and I finally headed to bed.
It was a fantastic week filled with so many fun and exciting things. I'm certain Tabytha will remember all the fun we had and I'm pretty sure John will be able to remember many of the fun things we did. Jessi may have vague memories as she grows up and I know that I will never forget this week! (taking over 100 pictures will help when I'm old and dementia sets in, lol!). The thing I especially loved is the fact that I'd been to Ocean Isle a couple times as a child with my parents and siblings and now having this chance to go back with my own children made it even more special. I had the unique opportunity to experience this vacation through two vantage points. I could relate to the excitement of my children going to this great place because I remember how exciting it was being a kid and going there and now, as a parent, I can understand my parents point of view in watching my children enjoy being there just like my parents saw my brother and I as kids. What an added blessing it was to have my Grandmother, Great Aunt, my parents, sisters and my husband's mother with us as well! You couldn't ask for anything better!